Managing teams in a post-Covid world has become as much art as it is science in that hybrid and remote work is here to stay, artificial intelligence is advancing rapidly, and there is an increase in the amount of very specific, well-built, easy-to-access software that can be employed to streamline the day-to-day management of modern business operations and people.
Trends in play that displace the traditional definition of the manager role
- Normalisation of hybrid workplaces and remote work
Since the advent of the first Covid lockdown in March 2019, employees and managers have become far flung.
The outcome is that:
– managers have way less insight into the realities of their employees’ working day and so have to focus more on work outputs and less on work processes,
– employees and their managers are less likely to be working on the same things at the same time.
- Accelerating use of technology to automate managing employees
Companies have had to invest in project management, scheduling and reporting software. While they may have focused on how technology can monitor, streamline and even automate remote-working employees’ tasks, technology can just as effectively replace the routine tasks of managers themselves. Furthermore, technology can help people within a team, or across teams, to collaborate and execute well-informed joint business decisions on a democratic basis.
- Employees’ changing expectations
Covid has seen companies expanding the support they offer to their employees into areas that fall into the realm of whole-person health and wellbeing. Work and personal life are more integrated and workers expect their managers to be part of their whole-person support system. As a result, relationships between employees and their managers have begun to shift to be more supportive of mental and physical health in and out of work. This is particularly true for Generation Z employees who expect such support as a basic requirement from their employer.
The roles of leader and manager should merge
While the roles of a manager and leader often coincide, their primary difference lies in the nature of their day-to-day responsibilities. While a manager tends to focus on the optimal use of resources and streamlining processes, a leader focuses on motivating and empowering people to work together towards a common goal. The pandemic, with its lockdowns, highlighted a real need for managers to embrace both roles and invest time in developing both their management and leadership skills. By learning how to integrate these roles, managers can become way more effective at inspiring, motivating and developing their teams – and so assist in driving the success of the company – even in times of great disruption and change.
What are the main functions of a manager?
The five key functions generally expected of a manager are: strategic planning, organising resources, staffing, directing and controlling activities.
Here are these roles described in more detail:
- Strategic planning: In a small or medium enterprises (SMEs) particularly, this can include assisting in deciding which direction a company should take and then setting the goals to get there. This entails managers being up to speed with current opportunities and challenges the business may face, and it requires them to forecast future business and economic conditions.
- Organising resources: Managers organise by coordinating the optimal use of physical and financial resources – and human capital – to achieve business objectives. Practically speaking, they identify activities to be accomplished, assign activities to teams or individual employees and set task and project parameters. They then oversee the implementation, monitor progress and trouble-shoot when necessary.
- Employing and growing talent: When a business is short-handed, the workload can overwhelm employees and compromise the company’s ability to meet customer needs. Managers play an essential role in identifying key positions and ensuring the right employee occupies each role. Once the ideal team is mobilised, effective managers are able to develop talent, identify those ready for promotion, as well as recognise and reward employees for work well done.
- Leading the team: Directing activities is a key function of leading, which requires managers to do more than simply marshal resources and give orders. It entails guiding and motivating employees in their day-to-day work to achieve the business’s goals and objectives. This requires the ability to communicate effectively, both up and down the organisation.
- Controlling the ship: Beyond supervising of employees and their work, control involves measuring the company’s achievement against established objectives and goals and then being able to implement a corrective course of action if need be. Controlling can also relate to navigating day-to-day situations such as upping production to meet a deadline or quality controlling a particular job to ensure customer satisfaction
Managing people beyond the 9-to-5
Traditionally, a people manager’s role may have been described as ensuring that every employee delivers as much value as possible for the organisation. Today, it is understood that employers have a duty of care to their employees, meaning that they should take steps to promote the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees – inside and outside of work. The more work and personal lives integrate; the more people are looking to gain a sense of purpose through their work. The less an employer creates this sense of purpose, the more likely it is employees will move on. Managers play a pivotal role in facilitating the forging of deeper employee-relationships, a strong sense of community and purpose-driven work.
Here are ten aspects of people management within today’s workplace:
- Acting as a two-way communication bridge between employees and upper-level management – and as the point person for other departments
- Providing the team and its members with direction and a sense of purpose
- Setting group and individual goals based on knowledge of each person in the team
- Maintaining stability for the team members through regular check-ins and ongoing feedback
- Encouraging teamwork by promoting communication channels between team members
- Motivating and engaging employees through recognition and reward
- Ensuring that each employee receives appropriate training and development
- Providing a psychologically safe work environment that is conducive to mental wellbeing – and educating the team about company health and wellness resources
- Upholding accountability when it comes to adhering to team and personal boundaries, and treating colleagues with respect
- Advocating on behalf of their team to secure necessary resources and support